T2: Trainspotting Judgement Day

T2: Trainspotting Judgement Day

Let’s face it, Danny Boyle doesn’t make bad movies. Every single one that his name has been attached to has been worthy of your time and deserved any success that came its way. It was his second as director, Trainspotting, that sent him on a roll. Its momentum helped create a career in Hollywood most modern movie makers can’t begin to rival. 2017 is the year he returns to the setting of a timeless piece of cinema.

In a perfect world, my first novel will be adapted by Boyle and Manchester would have its iconic movie (we did grow up on the same streets, so it’s not that far-fetched). It’s the dream choice because Boyle understands the drive of a story, then delivers a visual experience that goes beyond the vision of its creator. Irvine Welsh is a talented author, no doubt, but Trainspotting elevated his novel to heights he couldn’t have envisioned.

That was aided by the John Hodge screenplay and determination of producer Andrew Macdonald. Back in the nineties it was Boyle that had to convince Welsh a movie was a good idea. Years later it is the director in the hot seat calling the shots but it’s warming to know he wanted to make a sequel. It is something he actively sought, waiting merely for the actors to age accordingly.

The stars have aligned (and reassembled) to bring back the core characters from the original. Ewan McGregor’s “Rent Boy” has been missing for twenty years, as expected after stealing £16,000 from madman Begbie. Robert Carlyle was a scene stealer back in the first film (remember that glass chucking moment?) and his new Begbie is just as intense. But back then it was mindless, after twenty years in prison, it’s pure focus.

He escapes, and the lack of police follow-up is something we will just have to accept, and attempts to resume life. It’s here we get some laughs. Trainspotting was a black comedy at times, the laughs here are lighter and directly played for.

Sick Boy, or Simon, is now putting more coke up his nose than Renton put heroin in his arms first time around. He’s trying to run scams and wants to open a brothel to keep his girlfriend happy. Yep, the Edinburgh they inhabit still has its murky sides.

Ewen Bremner’s Spud is the final member of the quartet and plays a larger role than last time. He is still a heroin addict, estranged from his partner and child and is suicidal. The unexpected arrival of Renton gives his life a new direction.

For a time, the movie’s direction, while new, isn’t ground-breaking. It openly reminisces over famous scenes from the original. This trip down memory lane would be pure nostalgia in the hands of any other movie maker, and would be crude self-awareness – not unlike the last series of This Is England – if it weren’t for Boyle’s ability to bottle a mood a make everything feel fresh.

This talent is aided by a cast better equipped to deliver the vision this time around. They have all grown as actors. What the script lacks in depth, they fill out with more meaningful performances.

There was no point trying to replicate Trainspotting, that time has passed, the characters inhabit different bodies. But it would be soulless not to have them look back at key events after being separated for two decades. The soundtrack aides this natural introspection with a hint of familiar themes with new vibes laid over.

There are times the suspension of disbelief is stretched as coincidences and situations appear to drive us to a forced conclusion. That’s a nod to the power of the first film, perhaps there was no real story to tell after that one? But that’s not to say it is poor, far from it. Certain Boyle hallmarks displayed in Trance, and novel use of lighting in the finale, give this film the contemporary nod that separates if from its grimy predecessor.

Easily a four-star film, maybe as it settles it’ll take its place alongside the first. And in a few decades’ time, there’ll be no complaints if Boyle wants to visit these characters again.


The Mayweather and McGregor Problem

The Mayweather and McGregor Problem

Floyd Mayweather, the greatest boxer of his generation, is heading toward a bout with brazen MMA star Conor McGregor. There’d be no reason to keep prodding public opinion if it wasn’t a strong possibility. Mayweather laying down financial terms during an ESPN interview brings it a step closer.

From the Mayweather camp, this has been a carefully plotted case study. The Berto fight aside – when it appears he just wanted an easy go-home party – Mayweather uses social media to determine where the best payday can be found.

He drops hooks in the trending waters and waits to see what catches a bite. For years, fights have been selected or pushed on this principle. The obvious one that didn’t need it – Pacquiao – was delayed for actual sporting reasons. And perhaps, a consideration of legacy but we’ll get to that in a moment.

What appear to be throwaway Tweets are in fact examples of Mayweather mining for information. The strongest hit since Pacquiao has been McGregor. The Irishman has transcended UFC. Even a defeat to Nate Diaz (which he avenged) did little to halt his emergence as a global superstar. Since then, he has gone on to become the UFC’s first double belt holder.

He can make demands on Dana White that few, if any, have been able to get away with in the past. From borrowing Tyron Woodley’s belt when he wanted to parade two titles, to demanding a cut, in the way of shares, following the sale of UFC for $4.2 billion.

McGregor is a money printing machine for MMA and Mayweather likes to be synonymous with his self-given nickname.

Floyd looks at Conor and sees one last, easy, payday. He has every right to believe if 49 trained boxers couldn’t effectively penetrate his defence (save the De La Hoya chat for another day) then a mixed martial artist, who has only recently acquired a boxing licence from the state of Nevada, stands no chance.

The talk of how “it only takes one punch” or “he might prove too unorthodox to handle” is conjecture for another day. Dealing in things we do know, it can be said such a bout will forever tarnish Mayweather’s impeccable record.

Perhaps retirement has proven to be boring for Mayweather because this is the first time he’s actively chased a fight. In the past, people vied for position to get a shot at Mayweather. It was a privilege to be considered. Boxers, like Amir Khan, planned their entire schedules around the hope Mayweather, sat like Caesar, would give a thumb up.

Now it is Mayweather in front of cameras calling someone out. His air of indifference replaced with desire. Floyd may be trying to gain some ground back by offering “only” $15m to his $100m but it is McGregor that has been pulling the strings and provoking the boxer.

Floyd now wants this fight. It reveals an ugly side to a man that deserves to be considered in greatest of all time discussions. The Money moniker is less caricature, more true reflection.

He claims it would be a business decision. This is bad for business. As a businessman, he should recognise retired boxers profit from their legacy. Decades from now, regardless of the outcome with McGregor, the existence of the fight would diminish the perfect record he’d set as an active boxer.

The Pacquiao fight, unfairly, left a bad taste in most people’s mouths. This will confirm all the claims against him as a competitor.

The idea a part of him was humble, respected Rocky Marciano’s record and didn’t want to be mentioned in the same breath, will disappear if he ties the achievement against a MMA fighter in a non-competitive, money spinning exhibition bout.

Mayweather has been in WWE, McGregor is routinely connected, this could turn into a Sports Entertainment type grapple. Picture Thunderlips and Balboa in Rocky III. Would McGregor, with his brash, colourful personality, really stand and be humiliated for several rounds. Or would he turn it into an even bigger spectacle, get disqualified, and commence a brawl.

In a gimmick fight, you wouldn’t bet against it.

Post-fight, the draw of chasing down victory 51 and surpassing Marciano will build until his business brain marries with his in-ring ambition. But where could the satisfying conclusion to his career come from? Gennady Golovkin is simply too large for them to compete at a catch-weight – Floyd has even encouraged the middleweight to go up a division – and the rest of his fight record answers every possible question.

Only Amir Khan offers a high payday, intriguing bout. For all the Bolton fighter’s inbuilt faults, he does offer a dangerous style that won’t appeal to a man coasting for easy cash.

Floyd Mayweather should take a step back from the precipice. A fight against Conor McGregor may earn him in excess of $100m but no money in the world could repair the long-term damage to his legacy. The only time the pair should trade blows is in one of Vince McMahon’s wrestling rings. Not in a sanctioned boxing match.

WrestleMania has no place in the sweet science.

Pep’s Pantomime Period (and the theory of absence)

Pep’s Pantomime Period (and the theory of absence)

It’s been the time of year where fixtures came thick and fast and the media got giddy over things that don’t really exist. Oh! No they didn’t! Oh, yes they did. Pantomime season didn’t just play out in theatres around the country with former soap stars and forgotten reality TV faces, it’s been happening in the Premier League. A big win at West Ham should draw a line under it (for now). But the big closing night won’t make all parts of the act disappear.

He’s Behind You

The week leading into the FA Cup tie with West Ham saw intense focus fall upon manager Pep Guardiola. This began with an animated gesture to the Etihad crowd during the Burnley game, followed by frosty post-match interviews, then a series of snippets across various platforms. Some will say it stemmed from the Liverpool result. The gap to Antonio Conte’s Chelsea increasing and Jürgen Klopp himself moving ahead.

But Pep isn’t the sort of manager they will want sneaking up behind them.

There have been many interpretations about the interviews and subsequent comments. The optimistic rival had Pep unhappy and close to retirement. He didn’t think much of the fans and doesn’t even see City as a top four club. The idea City isn’t a member of the “traditional top four” was expanded upon with the opinion of a writer that worked with Pep, harvesting his views, back in a season that saw a Joe Royal led side relegated back to the second tier.

It’s safe to say, even the most passionate Blue wouldn’t have considered City a big gun that year. From an outsider in a faraway land, a side that had recently come up from the third tier probably weren’t on the radar.

But the press isn’t going to let things like, facts or the passage of time, get in the way of servicing the majority of clickbait readers that made their allegiance to United or Liverpool years ago, and find City’s emergence a great inconvenience.

Nor will these readers observe the rules they formerly followed. If Sir Alex Ferguson or José Mourinho took aim at the press and absorbed the flack, it was genius. An example of them playing mind games, deflecting pressure from the players. When Klopp displays an outburst, it is pure passion. When Pep does these things, it signals he is disheartened, that there are underlying troubles, he’s been found out and is losing the plot.

Could it just be he had genuine gripes? Lee Mason delivered a refereeing performance in the Burnley match that was so poor, Guardiola got a taste of what officiating was like in the third tier for City when he made his original remarks about the club’s stature. Far from him not caring, as recently implied, he showed his great frustration. Patience with the players adapting to his methods is one thing, fighting a twelfth man that should be impartial is the final straw.


Bacary Sagna has been asked to explain his Instagram post to the FA that read: “10 against 12…but still fighting and winning as a team. #together #mancity”

It appears to be a succinct but comprehensive summary of the game. Perhaps the Football Association should just watch the video of the tie back, they’ll be hard pressed not to agree.

What is also worth noting, is how he emphasised the team’s togetherness. Down to ten men, they celebrated huddled at the corner flag in a true show of team spirit. The men on the pitch, at times, look disjointed but it isn’t a signal that they’re divided.

Areas of Absence


It begs the question, if the commitment is there, what is missing? The easiest answer that fits most problems, is the correct personnel for the roles Pep requires. Ask any City fan what positions need reinforcing, and they’ll mention two full-backs, a centre back, a new holding midfielder, a striker, and worst of all for Pep: a goalkeeper.

These gaping areas of weakness raise a valid problem with the Guardiola approach. If he is the best coach in the world, as City fans were led to believe, why isn’t he able to train the players into these roles? And more importantly, when Pantomime season turns into a continual comedy of errors on the pitch, why doesn’t he instead play to the strengths that are available?

When Pellegrini refused to change, he was labelled (by yours truly) as stubborn and cantankerous. Is Pep any less difficult with his immovable approach? You can imagine him buying a cat and persevering with it until it barked. Or telling Kolarov he is a centre back, or Bravo he is an upgrade on Joe Hart.

Absence Makes the Hart Grow Fonder

And there it is, the elephant in the dressing room. Guardiola’s first major statement was to jettison Joe Hart. He’d seen enough videos to believe he couldn’t coach him into the player he required. Presumably all the current players that can’t follow his methods slipped detection. He brought in Bravo, who is having a shocker of a season.

The Ghost of Hart is cast over every failed save, misplaced pass, and poor positioning. There’s no suggestion Hart will be brought back, the player himself recently poured cold water on the idea. Pep is too proud to admit he made a mistake with Hart. But he will quietly move Bravo on in the summer if he doesn’t improve between now and May. Until then, each ironic cheer when he makes an easy save will increase in volume as people become evermore passionate for their exiled hero.

When Absence is Good (but bad)

The absence of a solid defence requires no explanation. A myriad of factors will mean it continues for the foreseeable future: the continued absence of Vincent Kompany, aged full-backs, a lack of protection from midfield, Claudio Bravo being Claudio Bravo, and the John Stones training school.

That last one doesn’t mean there’s any doubt about his potential ability. He should become a world class centre back. What shouldn’t be happening, is Stones completing every step of his progression in live action. It’s telling that rare City clean sheets (Watford, Hull City after being substituted early with injury) came without Stones involved.

But like Bravo, Pep will find it hard to backtrack where Stones is involved.

Now or Never for Kelechi was, as expected, met with vitriol online. What was said in that article still stands and has started to come true. Iheanacho didn’t make the most of Agüero’s four game ban – he couldn’t even keep his place in the side. A surprise start against Burnley further highlighted how his development has stunted. With Gabriel Jesus here, the chance to turn the tide is a smaller window now.

But Sergio Agüero himself is the centre of absence problems. Namely, does Pep want him permanently absent? There’s the continued suggestion he doesn’t fit the style and isn’t part of his plans. But nothing should be read into Kun not starting the Burnley game. That was a good absence. He has a history of injuries when overplayed. A four-game rest means little with only one day off between fixtures. Initially, it wasn’t worth the risk.

Absence of Support

More than once (Empty Seats, Empty Gestures) the fallacy about empty seats has been explained. What is absent at the moment, is a strong atmosphere. Pep understandably demands more from the crowd. But fans and players share a symbiotic relationship. Fans need to see passion to give it back, and vice-versa.

It took until the hour mark at home against Watford for fans to sing, “We’ve got Guardiola” and a hammering of Slaven Bilić’s side in the FA Cup for it return with any gusto.

Absence of the Panto

With an extended rest, Guardiola and his side have a chance to take stock. The coach has indicated he’s perhaps demanded too much, too soon. What he’ll be looking for now is the comedy of errors that have turned pantomime season into a circus to disappear. The focus is now on establishing a top four berth.

Beyond that, anything is still possible. Pep may continue to stress this is all a learning curve but one lesson he doesn’t need is on the unpredictability of the Premier League. Every team will drop points, if City can establish solid form it will lead to success.

Will that translate to trophies in season one of Pep’s reign? It’s hard to say. But an absence of silverware won’t be a concern if several months from now clear progression has been made.

Images: http://www.mancity.com; apart from Joe Hart: http://www.torinofc.it